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Forced Criminal Exploitation 

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Forced criminality involves exploiters forcing victims to commit criminal acts. These crimes could include transporting and distributing drugs or street crime such as selling counterfeit DVDs, bag snatching, ATM theft, pick-pocketing or forced begging. In some cases, children are forced to beg or steal by their parents or family members; they may feel obliged to commit criminal activity ‘for the good of the family’. 

Victims may also be exploited for benefit fraud. In some cases, extra tax credits, housing benefits or in the case of child victims, child benefit is claimed. Vulnerable individuals may be held captive by their exploiter who permit them only to go and claim benefits. Their money is then taken by the exploiter. 

Some organised crime gangs control their victims by blackmailing them with the threat of prosecution and imprisonment. Some victims have been prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for crimes they have committed whilst they have been trafficked. 

Countyline Gang Exploitation

In 2022, children were most commonly identified as victims of modern slavery relating to criminal exploitation and county lines. Countylines is when gangs transport and supply drugs to suburban areas and towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. 

Children as young as 12 have been used to courier drugs out of their local area. 15 – 16 years of age is the most common age range. Both male and female are being exploited. White British children are targeted because gangs perceive they are more likely to evade police detection. Social media is often used to make initial contact with children and young people.

Vulnerable adults as well as Class A drug users are targeted so that gangs can takeover their homes as Traphouses. This is often done through force or coercion. This takeover is known as Cuckooking. 

Spot the Signs of Forced Criminality Involving County Lines  

• Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area; 

• Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones 

• Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls 

• Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups 

• Leaving home / care without explanation 

• Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries 

• Parental concerns

• Carrying weapons 

• Significant decline in school results / performance 

• Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks 

• Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being 


Cannabis Cultivation 

The rate of home grown cannabis has rapidly increased over the last decade, taking over from the problem of cannabis being imported to the United Kingdom by drug traffickers. The use of trafficked labour has become such a problem that it is now the largest trend of child trafficking within Britain.

Gangs or individuals often rent accommodation on residential streets. Cannabis plants are cultivated in these buildings, often in every room. The plants need continual watering and heat in order to grow and require a great deal of attention. There has been a high rate of Vietnamese children who have been trafficked into the UK by gangs to cultivate the cannabis. These children are frequently locked in the houses or flats to tend the growing cannabis. Infrequent food is delivered to them. There have been a number of cases where the children could not speak any English and did not know which country they were in, and had been held for 4-5 years.




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Jack lives in Chelmsford. Jack was thirteen when one of his friends introduced him to Tony. Tony was only eight years older than Jack and wore designer clothes and sported an expensive watch. Tony was friendly and asked Jack if he wanted to make some money. Jack agreed. The money was easy. He just needed to transport a back-pack a mile across town. Jack didn’t ask what was in the back-pack. Jack wanted the flash lifestyle promoted on music videos he’d seen on TikTok. 

As Jack’s experience increased he was given increased responsibility. A mobile phone with 30 numbers on it was given to him. This mobile phone line (or ‘countyline’) enabled Jack to contact and transport packages to the 30 contacts. This was done from a central flat in the community belonging to a man with learning difficulties. Tony and his mates had taken the over the flat as a Traphouse, where the drugs were stored when brought from London. Over time Jack realised he was transporting drugs. Although this made him uncomfortable, he was happy with his pay and the risks were low. The Police rarely searched teenagers. Some of his clients were rough and for his own protection he started carrying a knife. 

Although Jack was happy with the money he received, his grades deteriorated at school. He started to go missing for short and then longer periods of time. His parents and teachers couldn’t understand what was happening and when Jack was confronted, he become aggressive and withdrew. Surrounded by older guys at the Traphouse, Jack started taking cannabis to help in cope with the stress. Although he tried to leave, Tony told him, ‘it’s not that easy. There would be consequences. We are your family now’. 

Case study

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Man growing canabis plants

Labour Exploitation 


Spot the Signs

Woman sitting alone

Sexual Exploitation 


Spot the Signs 

Girl Gazing

Domestic Exploitation 


Spot the Signs 

Report Modern Slavery

In an emergency call the Police on 999​

To get help or report a suspicion call the

Modern Slavery Helpline:

0800 0121 700 

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